I have never denied the fact that Billy Joel is my all-time
favorite entertainer. I admit my relationship with him has been on
the outs for the past, well, I guess it has been more than a
decade. He lost me during his "I want to write classical music"
phase which, I believe, was his period of bad-drug flashbacks. And
to this day, I cannot forgive him for not writing the ultimate 9/11
song. He was the perfect person to do it, and I waited, and waited,
and… Well, if you've been reading my column since the beginning you
know my feelings on that.
I remember watching a James Lipton interview with Billy on
Inside the Actor's Studio. He talked about Piano Man and the fact
that instrumentally, it is quite a simple and almost boring melody.
He pantomimes the typical scene when he walks into a restaurant and
upon recognition, the piano player segues into the song. And then
he comically acts out the musicians facial expressions when he
realizes the simplicity and repetition of the chords. And Billy
just gives the knowing nod of "yep, that's all there is."
Musically, it may be a simplistic song, but lyrically, like all of
Joel's songs, it tells a powerful story.
I tend to frequent the same restaurants and sit at the bar for
dinner. An avid people-watcher, I notice the same faces time and
again. I guess they notice mine as well. I can't help but think we
resemble the cast of characters in The Piano Man, albeit with our
own unique stories.
Sylvia (not really her name but she looks like a Sylvia) is a
retired school teacher. She always sits at the very end of the bar
at my local steak house, orders the same drink, eats the same food
and does Sudoku puzzles the entire time she is there. I frequent
this restaurant once a week, on different nights, and I don't
believe I have ever been there when she was not there as well.
Boston Tim spends a lot of time at the bar because he has been
out of work for awhile. Money doesn't seem to be an issue, boredom
does. He also has a tendency to be very outspoken, especially after
a few cocktails and much to the annoyance of the other patrons. I
typically get an apology email the following morning along with an
invitation to dinner. I politely decline.
Tom spends Friday and Saturday nights at the bar in my favorite
Italian restaurant. He once explained that he only drinks on the
weekends. He is friendly and a great conversationalist, but bitter
over his divorce so the walls are up. But we have intelligent talks
and a few laughs and pass the time.
Billy wrote lyrics about the characters who "share a drink
called loneliness, cause it's better than drinking alone."
Why do so many Boomers choose to be alone these days? We were
raised by parents like the Cleaver's, Stone's and Anderson's. So
why do we choose to be more like the Golden Girls and Grumpy Old
The Boomer generation changed the face of relationships. Women
fought for their rights to break through the glass ceiling and earn
the big bucks. They determined they no longer needed men to have a
nice lifestyle. Men made the choice to outfit their bachelor pads
with giant screen tv's and to no longer share the remote. Everybody
got what they wanted. But did they?
One of my gathering spots also seems to be the place to go when
on a blind date. You can spot them a mile away. One is pre-seated
at the bar while the other comes in and scopes out the room looking
for recognition of the person whose profile pic they saw on Match
or Plenty of Fish. They start out all smiles, providing their
autobiographies over foo-foo martinis. The rest of us look in
wonder asking, "how did they find someone who seems normal and
maybe compatible?" But the following week we see them again, either
on another blind date or alone. Have we just become too picky?
Perhaps Billy's song Scenes from an Italian Restaurant explains
the phenomenon. When we were younger, we grabbed what we thought
was the brass ring, only to become disillusioned when reality set
it. We bought in to the fantasy that Ward and June had the perfect
life, but we found out it all too often ends like Brenda and Eddie.
That "deep pile carpet and a couple of paintings from Sears" just
I will always love Billy Joel and his lyrics and Piano Man will
remain one of my favorites. But when it comes to my personal Boomer
existence, two facts remain. My number one Piano Man will always be
my dear friend, Frank Chase. And when it comes to lyrics, I have to
go with Barbra on how I feel about life. "People who need people
are the luckiest people in the world."
Cindy Phillips is a collumnist for The
Mountain Times, she can be reached at